The aims, theoretical approach, and methods of the book are introduced. Bringing French, German, and American social thought together in a single frame of reference, this book investigates how Jews served in the history of sociology as an intermediary for self-reflection. The book aims to historicize inherited categories of thought, concepts, and principles of classification in order to emancipate the present from a past that is forgotten and yet continues unconsciously to shape it. It will analyze depictions of Jews in relation to a set of two oppositions: first, between the traditional and the modern, and second, between civility and incivility (the antinomies of civil society). The book’s methods are interpretive, historical, and comparative. It concentrates on authors who were central to their respective national sociological traditions and who often exercised an influence on social thought more generally. Furthermore, it compares depictions of Jews not only across different national sociological traditions but also in relation to different synecdoches for modernity: democracy, capitalism, and the city.
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